Cape Coffee Awards 2021
2021 may not have proven to be exactly the year that we were all hoping for at the end of 2020, but it still had many great things to offer, in coffee and beyond. It was a busy year for the team at CCB, one filled with change. There was a veritable renaissance in startup coffee businesses and the home brewing space continued to grow.
While we've always enjoyed taking a look back at the things that were most popular in the year gone by, last year was our first "official" Cape Coffee Awards. Since so many people enjoyed finding out about the category winners, we're very pleased to continue the tradition this year with an expanded set of awards.
Some things remained unchanged, but there were also lots of newly emerging award-winners. Find out which items were most popular with South African coffee lovers in 2021!
Please note that these awards are purely quantitative. They are based on the products that sold the most throughout 2021 and not necessarily our top picks or favourites (although many of them are).
Manual coffee grinders of the year
In 2020 we saw an explosion in the manual coffee grinder market, both in terms of interest and in terms of variety. This has only continued in 2021. It's fair to say that there are more manual coffee grinders and better coffee grinders available in SA than there have ever been before.
This may have to do with the fact that more people started brewing at home because of the pandemic, and that doesn't seem to have changed. Perhaps people are also taking advantage of the incredible consistency and versatility of the newest generation of grinders.
This is good news for coffee lovers, because whether you want something very affordable, or something as consistent as the very best professional grinders, you have a bunch of options available to you now. Here are South Africa's favourites, in three distinct categories.
Entry level hand grinder of the year
Admittedly, this winner isn't a new one. The tried, tested & trusted Hario Skerton Plus Manual Coffee Grinder has maintained its top spot from the year before. It's been around for a long time, but it really still is one of the best entry-level grinders out there, balancing affordability and functionality.
It is one of the most affordable quality entry points to burr grinders and it doesn't cost much more than an electric blade grinder (which is something no coffee lover should ever use). With its ceramic conical burr set, it allows you to make delicious manual brews at home without breaking the bank.
Premium hand grinder of the year
OK, so maybe there hasn't been all that much change in the manual grinder space! The premium hand grinder award also goes to the incumbent. It's hard to beat one of the most reputable hand grinders in the world: the Comandante C40 MK3.
While the Comandante MK3 has many more rivals in 2021 than it had in 2020, it still retained its top spot in terms of the sheer number sold. Once you've used one, you really won't be surprised. It may be pricey for a hand grinder, but it produces grinds of a similar quality to professional grinders that are orders of magnitude more expensive.
Overall hand grinder of the year
But wait... we do have a surprise for you after all. The actual top selling hand grinder of the year was a brand new contestant: The Timemore Chestnut C2! We actually sold more of the Timemore C2 than the Comandante & Skerton combined. That is quite something!
You may be wondering, why didn't it unseat either of the previous champions in that case? The answer is that it's hard to put it either in the entry-level or the premium category. It sits comfortably somewhere in between. It's definitely not entry-level, but it also doesn't have quite the variety of grind settings that something like the Comandante offers. It's also a fraction of the price of the top-end premium grinders. You could think of it as the benchmark in a newly emerging category: the mid-tier manual coffee grinder. That makes it a great choice for most home brewers, and our customers seem to agree!
Electric coffee grinders of the year
Even though manual coffee grinders may be booming, there's never any shortage of people who value the convenience of electric. For espresso particularly, but also for manual brews, it's hard to beat the convenience of pushing a button.
Electric filter grinder of the year
Last year this was a very close call and this year was no different in that regard, but we have had a change of the guards, nonetheless. The Baratza Encore just overtook the Severin Conical Burr Electric Coffee Grinder as our most popular electric coffee grinder for filter and manual brews.
The fact that the winner this year was actually the more expensive grinder (largely due to greater versatility in grind settings and better consistency) speaks to the fact that manual brewers were clearly placing importance on quality in their home setups. As an entry point, the trusty Severin is still a fantastic choice, but the Encore's 40 grind settings and larger burr set won out this year!
Espresso grinder of the year
It's pretty unsurprising to report that there was no change in the espresso grinder of the year category. It's pretty hard to beat the functionality, quality and sheer reliability of the Eureka Mignon Specialita Espresso Grinder. It pairs well with any domestic espresso machine from entry-level to premium.
Having said that, we were intrigued to find that one of the champions of old clawed its way back to a very close second. The Rancilio Rocky had a surprisingly good year. It may not have the bells and whistles of the Specialita but it is known for its reliablity and it is very affordable in comparison to other espresso grinders. Its return to popularity may be a result of so many new home espresso enthusiasts entering the market and choosing the tried and tested classic grinder to start their home barista journeys.
Espresso machines of the year
In the espresso machine category we saw quite a lot of change in 2021. The domestic machine space had a shakeup with lots of interesting new entrants. We also have added a new category for commercial espresso machines. 2021 saw a surge in coffee entrepreneurship as relaxed restrictions gave a welcome boost to the demand for coffee in the cafe.
Entry-level espresso machine of the year
There's no denying it... we had quite an upset in this category in 2021. The king, or rather the queen of home espresso, was unseated from her throne. 2021 was the first year that we sold the new Gaggia Classic and it stormed past the Rancilio Silvia Home Espresso Machine to claim first prize in the entry-level space. Of course, it's worth nothing that the Silvia did not actually lose any ground. She actually sold more than she did when she won the category last year!
How can that be? It seems that the affordability of the Gaggia Classic has simply opened up the world of home espresso to many people who may not have purchased a home espresso machine before. We think that's a great thing!
You can't go wrong with a Silvia or a Classic. They are both fantastic entry points into home espresso, depending on your budget.
Prosumer espresso machine of the year
The tables turned in a similar way in the prosumer category in 2021. This had a lot to do with lots of new entrants into the space and it also featured an unexpected dethroning. You could say that Rancilio pushed up market, because the winner of the Prosumer category in 2021 was none other than the brand new Rancilio Silvia Pro, unseating the always dominant La Marzocco Linea Mini. The Linea Mini was still very popular but it couldn't quite keep up with the bang for your buck that the new Rancilio Silvia Pro offers home espresso enthusiasts. With dual boilers and PID at a price similar to many basic heat exchange machines, it's no wonder that so many espresso aficianados chose the new Silvia Pro as their vehicle of exploration.
Commercial espresso machine of the year
It really gives us great pleasure to introduce this category for 2021. It was sadly almost non-existant in 2020 as so many businesses struggled to survive the pandemic and its accompanying restrictions.
2021 saw a real surge in coffee entrepreneurship with lots of new coffee startups across the country, often in smaller towns and cities rather than just the metropolitcan centres.
The coffee entrepreneurs had a lot to choose from this year, and the winner of the popularity contest, by just a hair, was the Wega Lunna. Solidly built, basic but hardy, it was an obvious choice for those dipping their toes into the waters of the cafe.
This is a category where it's definitely worth taking note of the runner up, which was the Crem EX3. Although it finished the year just behind the Wega Lunna, it only entered the race half way through 2021! In the second half of the year, it was clearly the most popular, most likely because of its surprisingly advanced feature set at a relatively affordable price.
Coffee maker of the year
With all this talk of espresso equipment, one might be tempted to forget that most South Africans, heck most coffee lovers around the world, don't make "true" espresso at home. Manual brew methods still offer an easy, affordable, high quality option for the average coffee lover.
When it comes to manual brew methods, the most popular option has basically been the same, all across the globe, for almost a century.
And the winner is...
Once again, the Bialetti Moka Express takes the title of the most popular coffee maker of the year. It really is the most popular coffee maker, period.
Given its lifespan, its ease of use, its iconic design and its sheer longevity, it's still the most popular way to make a cup of quality coffee in your kitchen. We have customers that come in to buy spares for Bialetti Moka Expresso pots that are older than some of our team members and are still going strong.
It may be old-fashioned (many of the best things are) but there's no denying that the Bialetti Moka Express is an icon in the coffee space, and it likely will remain so for many years to come.
Electric filter coffee makers of the year
But wait... there's more. This is admittedly a new category, and possibly one that we should have considered last year. Even though more and more people are getting into espresso, and more and more people are getting into manual brewing, there's a classic way to make coffee that is also seeing a resurgence.
Some call it filter. Some call it batch brew. Whatever you call them, the reality is that these electric machines offer a really easy and convenient way to make large volumes of coffee at home or in a commercial setting. Unlike some of the crummy drip pots that your parents had (and are still available in many stores), the new generation of filter coffee makers feature precise variable control and consistently delicious brews.
Domestic filter coffee machine of the year
In the home filter coffee machine space, there was a very clear winner. The Technivorm MoccaMaster KBG Select took the top spot by a huge margin, and 2nd place went to its thermally insulated sibling the KBGT 741. You could say it was a clean sweep.
If you've used one of these brightly-coloured beauties, you get it. It's so simple, yet it's so consisent. It looks good on your kitchen counter. It lets you whip up a litre or more of wonderful steaming hot coffee with so little fuss. That's probably why we see so many filter coffee enthusiasts picking one of these up as a secondary brewer. Pour-overs are great, but when it comes to serving a dinner party, or making that first cup bleary-eyed, it's hard to beat a MoccaMaster!
Commercial batch brewer of the year
In the commercial space, things are different in terms of aesthetic. While she may also be royal, the winner isn't too focused on her looks, but there's no denying it; if you want to brew large volumes of consistent batch brew, there is an obvious choice: The Coffee Queen M Filter Coffee Machine.
The Coffee Queen is surprisingly affordable; it may represent the best value option for businesses that want to offer quality coffee on a small budget. You can buy just one brewer and as many flasks as you want, and you could serve an army. You don't even need a trained barista. It may not be as trendy as espresso, but we really believe in batch brew as a commercial offering. We'd love to see even more businesses pick it up in 2022!
Coffee of the year
The final award goes to the coffee brand that the people of South Africa enjoyed the most through 2021. Like last year, we selected this by brand as opposed to doing it by bean because many of our roasters change their offerings regularly and we didn't want this to be a disadvantage.
Coffee brand of the year
The result was clear and unchanged from last year. The coffee brand that sold the most bags of coffee in 2021 at CCB was Tribe Coffee Roasting, once again! There's no denying it. South Africa loves Tribe Coffee, and our friends at Tribe continue to succeed in "roasting the coffee that the people want to drink."
We have a lot of respect for the people and the products at Tribe and we want to congratulate them on their success! In 2021 we were lucky enough to offer some very special Tribe limited releases, and we hope to do more of that in 2022. Watch this space.
Coffee blend of the year
All right; we've relented. We received a fair bit of feedback last year complaining about the lack of a winner in terms of individual coffees. We've held back on that category simply because we offer dozens (if not hundreds) of single origin coffees across the year that are all available in very different quantities, for different amounts of time, and admittedly at very different price points. It doesn't make for an easy (or fair) comparison.
Still, we realised that we can look at the blends we offer. After all, most of them are available year-round (even if the components change seasonally) and many of our customers find favourites that they come back for again and again.
When it comes to the most popular blend that we offer, there was also a clear winner, and it was none other than Stellenbosch-based häzz, South Africa's coffee for heroes! These bright blue bags fly off the shelves at CCB and make their way to homes and offices across the country in impressive numbers. You can try the blend by buying a bag online or at HQ or visiting their cafes in Newlands and Stellenbosch.
A note about all our coffee partners
We may be repeating ourselves here, but we think it's a message worth revisiting. While we may have sold more Tribe coffee than any other brand, and more hazz coffee than any other blend, we feel very strongly that all the coffee brands we work with arewinners. After all, there are hundreds of coffee businesses in South Africa and we've very carefully chosen our partners. Each one of them has something unique to offer and they cater to many different budgets, palettes and personalities, but they are all providing coffee of the highest quality. We're proud to work with them all!After a period of time that stretched so many of them to the brink, we are so happy to see that they all survived the challenges that started in 2020 and feel relieved to see that their businesses picked up in 2021. We hope they will continue to grow in 2022. Please support them. They deserve it!
Last but not least, we want to say thank you to all the South African coffee lovers in our community. It's a special kind of privilege to be able to spend our days focused on specialty coffee and call it our job. We couldn't do that without your support and we are incredibly grateful.
We're really looking forward to 2022 and serving our growing coffee community. We wish you a great start to the year, in all things, including coffee.